RUSSIA. BESLAN SUSPECT'S LAWYER APPEALS FOR 'FAIR' SENTENCE AMID CALLS FOR EXECUTION
February 16, 2006: the lawyer for the only surviving alleged member of the Chechen commando unit responsible for the 2004 Beslan school massacre appealed for a "fair" verdict for his client.
"I ask the court to hand down a fair sentence," said lawyer Albert Pliyev.
The victims' families had demanded the death penalty for Nurpashi Kulayev, a 25-year-old Chechen who was on trial at the supreme court in North Ossetia, the Russian Caucasus republic in which Beslan is situated.
Kulayev had said he did not consider himself to be guilty of the deaths of any of the 186 children among the 331 people to die in the massacre.
The victims died during a bloody rescue attempt by government troops. Kulayev was charged with terrorism, murder, hostage-taking and rebellion.
Pliyev played down Kulayev's alleged role in the massacre, insisting that police had put him under pressure to confess during early interrogations.
"If I was a terrorist, as the prosecutor says, I would have been known as one even before Beslan," he said.
At the beginning of his trial in May 2005, Kulayev pleaded guilty before changing his plea, claiming people had "confused" him with his brother. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 16/02/2006)